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1999 NBA Playoffs

On the Court: In the Knick of time

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Posted: Tuesday June 22, 1999 11:01 AM

By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated

NEW YORK -- Going into Game 3 of the NBA Finals, it seemed like a Four-Gone conclusion. But Allan Houston and the New York Knicks had other ideas, and now we have an actual series. Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy might look like a mortician, but he sure has a way of reviving his team just when it appears to have one foot in the grave and the other on the proverbial banana peel. Can New York do it again in Game 4? Probably not. The Spurs, after all, were due to lose one. Here's a few more thoughts from courtside:

Tim Duncan got off to a slow start in Game 3, finishing with just two points in the first quarter, partly because Knicks forward Larry Johnson was pushing him off his spot in the low post into some faraway region of the city near Queens. Unable to get the position he wanted, Duncan misfired on a couple attempts and threw out to open teammates on a couple other possessions. In Games 1 and 2, the refs called fouls on the Knicks when they tried to get physical early with the Spurs. If the refs keep letting Johnson get physical with Duncan, this might yet be a series.

Before the Finals, Spurs guard Mario Elie called New York "the weakest" team they'd face. In Game 1 he backed it up. But since then he's done little to slow Allan Houston, who keeps getting open looks at the basket. Not that Elie was worried about his team's play. Taking the court after a timeout with 7:26 left in the second quarter, he walked over and shook hands with Knicks superfan Spike Lee seated courtside. Isn't it about time less-than-super Mario starts taking Houston and the Knicks seriously?

One of the biggest cheers of the night came when the image of former Knicks forward Charles Oakley was flashed on the giant overhead scoreboard. Wonder what Oak would have done had David Robinson banged into him the way he banged into Marcus Camby, triggering a mini brouhaha early in the third quarter? Oakley probably would have sent one down the Admiral's periscope. Then again, would Oak have made that sweet jumper that Camby Man did to put New York up eight points with just over 2:00 left in the game? Probably not.

Knicks fans apparently don't care for NBC analyst Bill Walton. Either that, or there were a lot of Charlie Ward fans in Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Late in the second quarter, a chant of "Walton sucks!" could be heard during a long timeout. Walton, seated up in a makeshift NBA Showtime booth up in Section 317, was busy at the time getting another coat of makeup applied to his face, and didn't appear to hear it. But fellow TV analyst Isiah Thomas, seated a couple chairs over with his back to Walton, could be seen with a slight smile on his face as he peered down at the crowd.

Check back before Game 4 for another addition of On the Court

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